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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

What happens to the chemicals used in dry-cleaning?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (22082 points ) July 27th, 2014

With all this talk about contamination of the ground water and creeks by improperly disposed items or trash, what happens to the chemicals used in dry-cleaning, where is it going? To have waste chemicals from 50 dry-cleaners better than having 2 car washes that have their runoff drain down the gutter?

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4 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

It’s reused over and over. Perchloroethylene or perc is filtered, distilled and reused by the machine. A small percantage goes out with the clothes and filtered crud but we are talking around .001% though. It sure does not go down the gutter. The car washes are much worse. I worked at a dry cleaner back in high school. Your friendly neighborhood redneck who thinks paint thinner makes good weed killer is the worst culprit most of the time.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ It’s reused over and over. Perchloroethylene or perc is filtered, distilled and reused by the machine.
They can recycle that stuff forever? Furthermore, they can decontaminate it of anything? If it ever needs to be removed, the business closes or moves, then what becomes of it?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Yes, the dry cleaning machine actually distills the stuff internally. I’m sure if the cleaner closes then it will be deemed ”universal hazardous waste” or recycled. I’m not sure what the business practice is but I’d say it’s recycled.

snowberry's avatar

Perchloroethylene is also known as Tetrachloroethylene or perc. Perc doesn’t bio-degrade. When you bring your dry cleaning home, some perc remains in your clothes and it off gasses into the air around it. This is a great reason not to wear dry cleaned clothes immediately after you bring them home. Let them air out outside, or at the very least, in the garage.
“Contamination at the dry-cleaning sites occurs, experts say, when perchloroethylene spills on the floor during cleaning-machine maintenance. The chemical then penetrates the concrete and enters the ground water.” http://www.nationaldriller.com/articles/86062-perchloroethylene-contamination-cleanup-begins-in-north-carolina
Its use is also starting to be discouraged in Europe. http://chemicalwatch.com/10853/france-takes-action-on-perchloroethylene-cleaning-chemicals
As a result of the problems with perc due to environmental damage and cancer risk, “green dry cleaners” are showing up in the US.

Approximately 85% of drycleaners in the US don’t use Perc. Try a search for “green drycleaners and see if one is near you.

France has already banned perc. I assume other countries in the world already have that law, or are are headed that way. http://www.drycleanersweb.com.au/sites/default/files/user-content/resources/file/france_bans_perc_2020_0.pdf

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